Book Review: In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran

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In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran
John Taylor- Dutton/Penguin USA

On July 29, 1981, at the Brighton Dome, Duran Duran takes the stage, and the power of their instruments is no match for the palpable power of the energy undulating and crashing in waves over the stage. In that moment, just before he turns twenty-five, John Taylor realizes that the band had “become idols, icons, subjects of worship.”

Only three years earlier, bassist Nigel John Taylor had formed the band with his friend keyboardist Nick Rhodes, and drummer Roger Taylor; guitarists Andy Taylor and Simon Le Bon soon joined them to form what evolved as the powerhouse English New Wave band of the 1980s, blending synthesizers with infectious pop melody as well as the driving beat of disco. Duran Duran’s first single, “Planet Earth,” rocketed up the UK charts to number 12 in 1981. MTV provided the perfect vehicle for the fashionably dressed band, and Duran Duran rode into the US on the wave of the music video revolution and has been performing, with various membership changes, continuously since 1981.

In this hard-driving memoir, Duran Duran’s John Taylor offers a glimpse into his own chaotic life, marred by addictions and the struggles of the band to stay together. Born in 1960 in the suburbs of Birmingham, England, to a working-class family whose wedding was the apogee of their lives, Taylor, their only son, grows up listening to his mother singing Beatles’ tunes. Pretty soon, he’s listening to Bowie, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Thunder, and The Heartbreakers, absorbing every bass run and guitar lick he can, and playing gigs at a couple of local clubs. As the fame of Duran Duran—the name of the villain in the sci-fi movie, Barbarella—rises, so do Taylor’s insecurities and his drug use, and by 1994, he’s off to rehab in Tucson, from which he emerges more secure and more focused on his personal life and his music.

Fiercely honest about his shortcomings, passionately engaged with his family, and deeply devoted to his craft, Taylor shares with us in this affecting memoir the most important lesson he’s learned: “performing is such an inside job; I learned to approach every gig as the most important gig I will ever play…it’s a fantastic formula.”

Courtesy American Songwriter